Finding ways to collect saves

LOS ANGELES — What a relief for the Marlins. A.J. Ramos chalked up big league career save No. 1 on Wednesday, breezing through a perfect ninth inning in Miami’s 5-4 comeback victory over Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.

Not only was Ramos undaunted by the task of his first save chance, the right-hander showed signs of dominance, striking out two before ending it on Andre Ethier’s routine fly ball to right. The moment was extra special for Ramos because his parents, who live in Texas, were at the ballpark.

Now, one save doesn’t make a closer. But the Marlins are in dire need to fix their late-inning struggles. All things considered, a 4-6 road trip, wasn’t that bad, especially against that level of opposition — the Nationals, Giants (four games) and Dodgers.

Before leaving Miami, you’d pretty much would have taken 5-5. And 4-6 didn’t knock them too far off course. But what could have been was one of the best road trips in years. The sticky point is the three blown saves. If all three were converted, then you’re looking at a 7-3 swing.

So who will close? The Marlins can say they will go by matchups, but based on what we saw in L.A., Ramos is deserving of getting a look. All three batters he retired batted lefty.

The struggles of the ‘pen are well known. Miami weighed all options, and had discussions with free agent Rafael Soriano. But after seeing Soriano throw, the team felt the veteran isn’t an upgrade over what they already have. Also, because Soriano has remained on the market, and didn’t have the benefit of Spring Training, it would take him at least a couple of weeks to be in position to help.

The Marlins are scrambling to get over .500 as quickly as possible. They’re 16-19 heading into Friday’s series opener against the Braves at Marlins Park.

It’s appearing more likely that Miami’s best chances of solidifying its ‘pen is working with the options already in the organization.

Jarred Cosart’s tight hamstring could also play into the equation. Cosart will be evaluated Thursday, and if he has to miss a start or go on the disabled list, chances are the Marlins will reinstate Henderson Alvarez to pitch this weekend.

The team has been weighing whether to give Alvarez one more rehab assignment start, at Double-A Jacksonville, or activate him for Sunday. Cosart’s injury may make that decision for the club.

From the sounds of things, the team wants to fix the ‘pen as quickly as possible. David Phelps opened the season in the bullpen, but stepped into the rotation after Alvarez went on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Phelps could go back to the ‘pen, offering late-innings depth. Or, Tom Koehler could swing from rotation to ‘pen. There is a feeling Koehler could handle any role — start, long relief, setup or even close.

If Miami wants both Koehler and Phelps in the ‘pen, lefty prospect Justin Nicolino is impressing at Triple-A. He could come up to join the rotation.

It is doubtful Koehler, if moved out of rotation, would immediately close. But he is capable of being the eighth inning option.

And let’s not completely rule out Steve Cishek. He’s working now to get right. And in a month or so, he may fix his mechanics, and regain that difficult-to-hit downward movement. If that happens, and Ramos runs with the closer job, Miami could be in a good spot. Then, they’d have two closer options.

History has shown many playoff teams have more than one candidate who can close. It would be ideal for Miami if Ramos and Cishek become that tandem.

Joe Frisaro

5 Comments

I like the idea of seeing TK in the closer role. His versatility, combined with his hit or miss stuff in the Marlins rotation has allowed the Fish to take their time calling up top pitching prospects. TK definitely has the arsenal of pitches and mound moxie to make runs hard to come by, by working just one inning. The idea of Cishek and Ramos as a World Series run tandem duo should get fans zipperbumping, but I think Ramos has earned the right to see what kind of track record he can put together as the teams go-to closer. As for Phelps, the guy makes me sick with how effortless he makes pitching look, which makes him a solid #3 or #4 in the starting rotation.

With a healthy Hendu, Cosart and Fernandez I picture the Marlins winning rotation and pen finishing out the season like this:

1. Jose Fernandez
2. Mat Latos
3. Henderson Alvarez
4. David Phelps
5. Dan Haren/Justin Nicolino (The rotation DESPERATELY needs a lefty)

Long Relief:
1. Jarrod Cosart
Middle Relief:
1. Sam Dyson
2. Nick Masset
3. Greg Nappo
Set-up:
1. Tom Koehler
2. Steve Cishek (Still thinking he is deadline trade bate…Stanton does love him though)
3. Mike Dunn
Closer:
1. A.J Ramos

Note: I would like to find room for Nick Wittgren in the pen, but Loria & Jennings have struggled to find solid lefty options coming out of the pen – hence the Greg Nappo name drop in the middle relief spot.

Just another one of Tate’s crazy predictions to try and find a string of wins in our rotation and bullpen.

Great read,

Jason Tate

Agree on your side note. I would like to see Wittgren in the equation somewhere. Should be interesting to see how this pans out!

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Nice thoughts, but keep this in mind. Trading Cishek doesn’t make any sense. If he is struggling, what are you going to get for him? You’d basically be unloading him, and some team would grab him on a low-risk deal. So that isn’t viable. Secondly, if Cishek rebounds and resembles what he has been the past few seasons, then why would the Marlins trade him?

The biggest misconceptions among fans is they think trades are like fantasy trades. Someone doesn’t help you, so you get an All-Star. Doesn’t work that way in the real world.

I don’t like the idea of Cishek being a trade deadline piece, but with Loria’s quick trigger for repeatable offenders, so shipping him out to replenish the farm system might not be a bad idea – especially if he can revert back to the old Cishek, and Ramos proves he is just as good, if not better in the closer role.
The idea of flipping Austin Dean, Arturo Rodriguez and Cishek for Pap would be sheer stupidity, but Loria is a UNIQUE guy – which is why you cant rule anything out. K-Rod would be the best deadline choice if the struggles continue in the ninth for the Marlins.
Explanation on the fantasy trade vs. real world trades please? Because I believe the Yankees, Red Soxs, Tigers and Dodgers are real world teams. Not to say your wrong, just clarity for my own head piece.
Thank for the Response.

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